As the world remembers the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, nowhere has it been more poignantly remembered than in the small rural village of Lahardane in Co. Mayo.
From here a group of 14 people boarded the ill-fated voyage in 1912, 11 perished in the disaster and just three survived and they chose never to return to their native soil. If one visits the village of Lahardane today it isn’t hard to step back in time. The village and landscape remain largely unchanged apart form the new houses and businesses, signs of the short spurts of prosperity often witnessed by small Irish villages.
As local people are pulling out all the stops in commemorating the bereaved, who though never forgotten, their tragic deaths were rarely spoken about until recent years, one is struck by how little has changed in the people and their circumstances. In towns villages all over the west of Ireland young people today again gather to say goodbye to loved ones as they hit off to foreign shores filled with a sense of adventure.
What a blow it must have been for a small community to lose so many people, first to emigration but then to such a tragic death just days later. As the fourteen people boarded the train in Castlebar, how their relatives and friends must have clung on to prospect of a letter from America as consolation for their going. It is understandable that the tragedy was too painful to talk about for decades. That the survivors never returned bears testament to that pain.
The work dome by the villagers in Lahardane in commemorating those lost in the disaster has somehow managed to be both respectful and hopeful. The new park in the village to remember the fourteen people who left is set against the backdrop of Neiphin Mountain. It is a landmark visible to many living in Mayo and would have been visible to the fourteen from the carriages of the train as they commenced their ill fated journey.
The park though has also a certain sense of hopefulness also, it is bright and cheery, a place where people will go and meet, where visitors will come. In time it will no doubt contribute to the village’s economic development.
For many communities, commemorating the past and accepting the future are important aspects of planning for the future. If villages just plan to survive, then their success will be measured only in their survival. Villages and rural area need to be resilient if they are to have a sustainable future. Resilient communities plan to not just survive but to thrive
Perhaps one way of remembering our past generations is to start now to create a better future for our future generations.